Last year, I wrote about the T-Mobile Blackberry Curve, and described why I was convinced that it was the best phone for International travelers.
Its combination of T-Mobile WiFi calling and smartphone features made it an absolute winner, and it was one of the 25 products featured in our “best travel products of 2008“.
As with all mobile phones, technology does not stand still, and T-Mobile recently released the newest version of this Blackberry – the Curve 8900.
The 8900 takes the best parts of the older Curve, and adds a 3.2 megapixel camera with Auto-focus and LED flash, a MicroUSB port (instead of MiniUSB), GPS, a higher resolution screen and an improved keyboard. Still inside the device is the fantastic WiFi calling feature and all the other goodies offered by the Blackberry operating system. The device also underwent a little cosmetic surgery, and is in my opinion the best looking Blackberry to date.
As a reminder – the T-Mobile Hotspot@home service allows you to use a WiFi network as an alternative way of getting on the T-Mobile network.
When you are outside their cellular coverage area, you simply get yourself on Wi-Fi, and you can make and receive calls, send and receive text/picture messages and use the web/email portion of the phone. Of course, none of this is particularly impressive if you are just sitting in Peoria without coverage, but being able to turn on Wi-Fi in your Tokyo hotel and make free phone calls without any trouble is in my opinion the best feature on any phone available at the moment.
Yes – many phones have VOIP built in (the iPhone has Skype for example), but the seamless integration on the Curve is just amazing. You make and receive calls using your own phone number, and you don’t have to screw around with any additional software.
Battery life is quite simply astounding – and is one of the few phones that actually gets close to its promised standby and talk times (5.5 hours talk time and 15 days standby). Even with over 400 emails a day, I could still get away with just one charge a week.
The Blackberry Curve 8900 is not perfect though – the device still uses the old(er) EDGE data system instead of 3G, so when you are using the cellular network, you’ll feel the pain of slow transfers.
Also, the Blackberry OS feels a tad cumbersome when compared to the iPhone or the T-Mobile G1 running Android. Simple things often take more button presses than they should.
Still, despite those minor issues, the Curve 8900 is quite simply amazing, and for anyone leaving the country a lot, a real lifesaver. To make the device even better, T-Mobile is the only operator in the country that offers an unlimited email add-on package. For just $19.95 (in addition to the normal plan costs), you get unlimited email in any country that offers T-Mobile roaming service. AT&T will charge you $60 for just 50MB of international data, and that plan only applies to a select number of countries.
One quick word of warning though – the unlimited email plan really only applies to email, in the past they would permit any data, but recently they made changes that started billing customers for web or other data used abroad.
One final major improvement I need to mention is the new Blackberry App World. This iPhone like “app store” is fantastic, and finally puts an end to the hassle that was always involved with getting applications on the device. The App World is free, and is currently filled with loads of cool applications, including Slacker for the Blackberry.
The Blackberry Curve 8900 is available from T-Mobile for $149 (after a $100 mail in rebate), or from Amazon.com (a T-Mobile dealer) for free (after a $100 mail in rebate). These prices require a new service plan. The price without a new plan is $500.